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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MultiFUNGtionality (Fungal diversity, ecosystem services and forest management: unravelling the role and dynamics of fungal communities in multifunctional Mediterranean forests.)

MultiFUNGtionality Report Summary

Project ID: 655815
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MultiFUNGtionality (Fungal diversity, ecosystem services and forest management: unravelling the role and dynamics of fungal communities in multifunctional Mediterranean forests.)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Forest fungi are a major biodiversity component of Mediterranean forests, and contribute to providing crucial ecosystem services. Thus, changes in fungal communities driven by environmental factors and human actions on ecosystems may have ultimately an impact on human well-being. Understanding and predicting such changes and their subsequent impact on the provision of ecosystem services is crucial to enable scientifically sound decision-making in land–use planning. However, our knowledge on such complex ecological systems is limited due to the high diversity of forest fungi and their cryptic nature. MultiFUNGtionality project aimed at addressing this complexity by contributing to unravelling how fungal diversity is affected by several drivers and, in turn, how it affects the provision of multiple ecosystem services to be further integrated into multifunctional forest management. This was carried out thanks to multi-scale, high-quality data on above- and belowground diversity and its potential drivers. Such data have been analyzed using advanced hybrid modelling techniques, and the resulting models have been combined in simulation-optimization routines to enable science-based decision making in forestry sensitive to fungal diversity. The research carried out in the frame of the project highlighted the crucial role of the climate in fungal dynamics, predicting changes that will also affect their associated ecosystem services. The results of MultiFUNGtionaly demonstrated how the forest management can be used as a tool for the sustainable management for both fungal diversity and mushroom yields. The data analysis at global scale also concluded that forest diversity correlated with forest productivity.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The study area was the Catalonia region, north-eastern Spain. Aboveground fungal diversity data was obtained from the thorough monitoring of sporocarps in 133 permanent experimental and sample plots representing the main forest ecosystems (i.e., pure and mixed Quercus ilex, Pinus halepensis, P. nigra, P. sylvestris, P. pinaster and P. uncinata stands) throughout the study area with a wide range of variation in terms of stand structure, climatic conditions, soil characteristics, topography, and forest management intensity. All the sporocarps have been inventoried weekly during the main fruiting season (i.e., from August to December). Belowground fungal diversity data was obtained from high-throughput DNA sequencing based on soil sampling conducted 4 times per year. The precipitation at lower altitudes was the most influential driver in explaining fungal dynamics whilst temperature was more influential in higher altitudes. The fungal models obtained were forecasted for the frame of future climate change scenarios, predicting changes in fungal dynamics that may affect key ecosystem services such as carbon sinks and mushroom yields. Forest management practices could become a proper tool for increasing the resistance and resilience of the forests in the face of the expected global change. The upscaling of the project data with other worldwide data serve to demonstrate a positive relationship between productivity and diversity of the forest ecosystems. All the results were disseminated to the different target publics using specific channels. The scientific community was addressed by scientific publications and conference and workshop participation, while forest managers and policy makers were the main target when we published technical reports and divulgative publications. The MultiFUNGtionality results were voiced to the general public using media channels (TV or newspapers) as well as conferences and exhibitions.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Forest fungi represent a major biodiversity component of terrestrial ecosystems, including Mediterranean forests, in terms of both taxonomic and functional diversity, and contribute to key ecosystem processes and services. Whereas fungal diversity affects ecosystem services and dynamics, the opposite is also true. The interactions between environmental and anthropogenic drivers such as climatic variation, atmospheric deposition and soil characteristics, coupled with forest dynamics and disturbances, determine fungal diversity and community structure depending on the functional traits, ecological strategies and habitat preferences of forest fungi. MultiFUNGtionality focused on filling the existing gaps in knowledge in order to understand and predict how environmental and anthropogenic drivers shape Mediterranean forest fungal diversity and communities, and the subsequent impact in the provision of multiple ecosystem services within an adaptive forest management-oriented framework. The project results confirmed the extreme relevance of the climate and weather on the fungal communities’ composition. The project predicts that the expected driest and warmest climate in the Mediterranean forest ecosystem will have relevant impacts on fungal dynamics, consequently affecting their related ecosystem services. To summarize: our results confirmed the direct impact of global change on societal well-being due to alterations in fungal communities that are key players in capturing carbon in the soil, supporting forest health and diversity, and more concretely, influencing other relevant ecosystem services such as mushroom picking activities. Forest management should act as a tool for minimizing such impacts.

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